50 years ago: Local prices skyrocket

In the Nov. 29, 1967 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, the following story appeared on page 3. The previous week’s edition had reported on Britain devaluing the pound sterling and the impact that was likely to have on Cayman’s finances.

“When we went to press last week, Jamaica had not yet announced her intention to devaluate her pound, but, nonetheless, many stores had already started to re-price the stock on their shelves.

“His Honour the Administrator spoke to the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning and requested them to advise the Chamber not to do anything drastic until the situation had received consideration. He also advised that goods from Britain and Jamaica and goods from the U.S.A. already in stock should not be raised in price. This was reiterated in a Government Notice issued on the 22nd.

“Later that morning the resolution reported in our last issue gained the majority of votes (13) and was passed. There was a counter resolution which only gained 6 votes calling for an increase in 2d, in the 1/- but, if democracy works, all members of an organization abide by the majority decision.

“The end result was that the prices in the stores were raised so rapidly and the mark-up in many instances was so high that public alarm was created.

“This caused the dockers to strike for more pay and left ships standing idle at the docks. It was impossible for the government to raise the pay of the dockers from 5/- per hour to 7/6d. without the approval of the Executive Council. They were offered a 20% raise i.e. 6/- per hour on Thurs, but refused to accept this.

“On Friday morning, His Honour the Administrator met with the dockers at the Town Hall. After Mr. O.L. Panton had put the dockers’ case, His Honour asked them to accept the 6/- offered by the Government until the Assembly meeting on Monday when he had no doubt, after his Budget Speech, this matter would receive top priority in matters to be considered by the Assembly. The Shipping Agents offered 1/6d. per hour as a temporary measure to get the Island Prince III and Kirk Star unloaded.

“The strikers accepted this temporary agreement and thus work commenced on the dock just before noon.

“It is understood that the Chamber of Commerce will meet tomorrow, Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. when the situation will be reviewed.

“In Cayman Brac no merchants have yet raised their prices but they are waiting to appraise the situation and learn of the decisions in the Legislative Assembly before taking any action.”

The same edition reported on a debate held in the Legislative Assembly about the increase in dockers’ wages, in which the members generally supported the motion.

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